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506                    HISTORY OF PERSIA                   CHAP.
principle was believed to be independence of foreign control '
His first act was to attempt some sort of financial reform, the ;
object of which was to render the country independent of foreign
financial assistance. But as soon as he had obtained control of
the Government, it was apparent that his main and principal
object was to make money. He made an alliance with the Shah's
chief adviser for a division qf the spoil. Governments were
put up for sale, grain was hoarded and sold at extortionate prices,
the Government domains were stolen or sold for the benefit of
the two conspirators, rich men were summoned to Teheran and
forced to disgorge large sums of money, oppression of every sort
was countenanced for a consideration ; the property and even the
lives of all Persian subjects were at their mercy. Finally, there
was every reason to believe that a conspiracy was on foot to de-
throne the foolish and impotent Shah and to oust the Valiahd. In
their place was to be put the Shoa-es-Sultaneh, the Shah's younger
son, who was a by-word even in Persia for extortion and injustice.
The policy of the Atabeg and his friends had thus aroused the
opposition of all classes in Persia: of the few more or less patriotic
statesmen, who knew to what a goal the country was being led ;
of the priests, who felt that their old power and independence
would perish with that of their country; and of the great mass
of the population and the mercantile classes, who were the daily
victims of the tyranny of their oppressors.
The First " Bast" December 1905.—The movement
which ended in the grant of a constitution was at first
merely a protest against the Ayn-u-Dola, who was held
to be responsible for the unpopular loans, for the equally
unpopular journeys of the Shah, and generally for the
corrupt and oppressive government of the country.
The first actual movement was caused by an act of
the Governor of Teheran, who bastinadoed a respectable
old merchant on the alleged charge of making a corner
in sugar. By way of protest against this act, a number
of merchants took sanctuary at the Masjid-i-Shah, or
" Mosque of the Shah," where they were joined by some
of the chief Mullas. The Imam Juma, the, official head
of the mosque, was hostile to the agitation, and at the
request of the Ayn-u-Dola he drove out the agitators
with sticks. Instead of dispersing, they proceeded to
the shrine of Shah Abdul Azim, outside Teheran, where
their numbers increased day by day. It is of considerable